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Egyptian court halts virginity tests on female protesters

December 27, 2011 | 10:35 am


REPORTING FROM CAIRO -- A Cairo court has ruled against forced virginity tests on female protesters detained in military prisons.

“The court orders that the execution of the procedure of virginity tests on girls inside military prisons be stopped,” Judge Ali Fekri, Head of the Cairo Administrative Court, announced Tuesday.

The ruling came in the case of Samira Ibrahim, a woman who sued the Egyptian army for being subjected to a forcible virginity test in a military prison.

Ibrahim was detained, along with about 20 other female protesters, when military police’s dispersed protesters in a March 9 sit-in in Tahrir Square.

Following their release, Ibrahim and fellow protester Salwa Hosseini told the El Nadim Centre for the Rehabilitation of Victims of Torture that while in custody they were beaten, given electric shocks and subjected to strip searches and “virginity checks” by the military police.

The Tahrir incident in March was the first violent clash between the army and protesters since the Supreme Council of Armed Forces took control of Egypt after President’s Hosni Mubarak’s ouster on Feb.11.

While army leaders issued an apology for the violent arrests, an army general speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity two months later did not deny that virginity tests were conducted on female demonstrators.

“We didn’t want them to say that we had sexually assaulted or raped them, so we wanted to prove that they weren’t virgins in the first place,” the general told CNN.

“These were girls who had camped out in tents with male protesters … and we found in the tents Molotov cocktails and drugs,” he added.

The general’s comments caused a local and international uproar. Amnesty International condemned the remarks, describing them as “an utterly perverse justification of a degrading form of abuse.”

“The women were subjected to nothing less than torture. Authorities must bring those responsible for ordering or conducting virginity tests to justice,” the grouop said in a statement.

After the ruling Tuesday, hundreds of activists who had attended the court hearing in support of Ibrahim staged a celebration rally in Tahrir Square.


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-- Amro Hassan

Photo: Protesters in Tahrir Square on Dec. 20 denounce the treatment of female protesters in military prisons. Credit: AFP